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REA Kaltim, oil palm plantations in East Kalimantan, Indonesia


Land conflicts in Kutai resulted from indiscriminate allocation of land to private companies for oil palm plantations on the 90s given that local communities rights were not recognized under national laws.

The majority of the people living in the area are indigenous Dayak. There are also indigenous Kutai and immigrants from other regions (Eg. Chinese, Javanese, etc.). Before the establishment of oil palm, the Dayak people held customary land collectively, which they used to grew fruits, vegetable and rice. They also practised some fishing and gathering from the forest [1]. However, after the arrival of palm oil and rubber plantations which ignored their traditional rights, a process of individualization of land tenure has taken place. Land was allocated to private companies without consultation nor consent of local communities.

The lack of official recognition of customary rights enabled the obtainment in 1991 of a license to start operating a palm oil plantation by PT REA Kaltim Plantations. The land acquired figured as owned by the state. Subsequent planting of oil palm in Kembang Janggut sub-district began in 1994. Participatory mapping by the local communities was not undertaken [1][2].

PT REA Kaltim Plantations received RSPO certification in 2011 after an auditing process –which presented some irregularities and inaccuracies- took place. A part from joining efforts in certain protests, communities in the area remain divided, given that they did not receive equl treatment by the company or the government.

  Protest have taken place in several villages due to unfulfilled promises of plasma, unpaid compensation for losses of land and lack of proper communication from the company.

In may 2004, a protest over pending plasma and compensation took place at one of the mills temporarily shutting down the mill’s operations. Another protest took place in 2011 as a response to river pollution derived from waste disposal.

The passivity of governments in protecting communities’ rights led to protests in front of the district’s government office on February 2012.

Later in the same year, five company roads were blocked under 25 days –ending on the 8th of June. The company agreed to give compensation to the protesters, but did not formalize it. After these protests, some conflict resolution mechanisms were put in place by both the company and the government [1].

Later, in 2013, a letter of complaint was sent to the RSPO by community members. The letter stated the incompliance of the company with the plasma schemes and the pollution of water. The RSPO closed the complaint without reprisals [1][3].

However, the majority of the people living and working on the plantation are unaware of the membership of PT REA in the RSPO and its implications for them.

Given that the local communities are economically dependent on the plantations, protests have arisen to demand the fulfilment of their rights, but not the shutdown of the company’s operations.

PT REA Kaltim Plantations hired private community guards to ensure security, while the mobile police brigade entered the plantation when protests and demonstrations occurred.

Regarding expansion of planted area in its current concession, the intention of REA is to plant palm oil on all suitable undeveloped land available following the RSPO New Plantings Procedure [1].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:REA Kaltim, oil palm plantations in East Kalimantan, Indonesia
State or province:East Kalimantan
Location of conflict:Kembang Janggut
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

1,2 million ha of land are allocated for palm oil plantations in East Kalimantan. The expansion has been accelerated since 2005, increasing the total area of plantations by 30% during 2005-2012.

In addition, 4,7 million ha are projected for conversion into palm oil plantations by 2015. There are 330 companies active in the area that control large-scale oil palm plantations.

In Kutai, 123,673 were covered by palm oil plantations in 2010 (109,188 ha operated by private companies).

Many negative environmental and social consequences have arisen as a result of poorly regulated expansion: 300,000 ha/year deforestation rate, water and air pollution, land conflicts...

PT REA Kaltim Plantations belong to REA Holding’s, which became an RSPO member in 2007. PT REA Kaltim Plantations received RSPO certification in 2011.

PT REA Kaltim Plantations is composed of two mills and six states. There are nine villages in the area of the plantation, while 20% of the concession is considered Conservation area. Local communities are allowed to enter areas of Conservation and do limited hunting and planting.

REA Holdings is also developing an open coast coal mine in a nearby area [1].

Project area:37,084
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:620,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1994
Company names or state enterprises:PT REA Kaltim Plantations from Indonesia
REA Holdings PLC from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Plantations Office of East Kalimantan
Kukar National Land Agency
Forestry and Plantations Office
Local Parliament
Land Adquisition Committe (East Kalimantan)
International and Finance InstitutionsRoundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (RSPO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Forest People’s Programme
Sawit Watch
TuK Indonesia

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Global warming
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Land demarcation
Proposal and development of alternatives:The communities demand [1]:
-Realization of plasma schemes (cooperative programmes introduced by the Indonesian government to enable smallholders to become independent oil palm growers. The small farmers produce for large agribusinesses and receive assistance in the form of loans, knowledge, etc. in exchange)
-The equal treatment of all the villages within the concession
-Compensation for land lost in early 90s
-Active information-sharing channels between company and communities
-Training for communities on their legal rights, RSPO standards and right to FPIC
-Greater transparency by the company
-Participatory mapping of customary lands and concession boundaries
-Provision of relevant documents to community mebers
-Development of regional bylaw recognizing and protecting customary rights to land
-Government action to resolve ongoing land disputes
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Some mechanisms of conflict resolution has been put in place and participatory mapping has been undertaken as a response to protests
Yet, many demands from the communities are still unfulfilled and information is not fully communicated

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Chao, et al., 2013. “PT Rea Kaltim Plantations and the Dayak and Kutai peoples of Kutai Kartanegara and Tabang, East Kalimantan” In: Consent or conflict? The oil palm at a crossroads. Ch5

[2] “Sustainable palm oil: Marketing or true commitment?”

[3] RSPO Case Tracker "PT Rea Kaltim plantations"

"13 Warga Kembang Janggut Ditangkap" by Koran Kaltim (online newspaper)

Meta information

Contributor:Clàudia Custòdio
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2674



Detention of local residents who blocked part of the plantation at PT REA Kaltim Plantations